FH rehabs 22 homes in three-plus years
“I was looking for a move-in-ready house on a quiet tree-lined street located close to my medical school job in University Circle,” said first-time homeowner Thomas Radford, who previously lived in Solon and Bainbridge. “This house checked all the boxes for me.”
Radford's house, on Elbon Road in Cleveland Heights' Noble neighborhood, is one of 22 vacant and foreclosed homes rehabilitated so far through work led by FutureHeights, the city's community development corporation (CDC). Each had fallen into disrepair, and some were facing possible demolition.
Until this year, FutureHeights sold each vacant house, prior to renovation, to a developer who then carried out the work and re-sold the renovated house to an owner-occupant. (One such renovation project was completed in May, just two doors down from Radford's home, in keeping with FutureHeights’ targeted approach to neighborhood investment and redevelopment.)
For Radford's home, FutureHeights itself acted as the developer, hiring and supervising the work of construction contractors.
"It’s another way for FutureHeights, and CDCs in general, to rehab houses and improve the community," explained Micah Kirman, FutureHeights' interim director. "We, as a CDC, are able to keep the sales price low enough to be affordable. Private developers and rehabbers do not necessarily share the same motivation of affordability."
During its first three years, FutureHeights' housing rehabilitation program, FutureHomes, produced almost $2.7 million in increased property valuation, generating $107,000 in additional taxes for the city. The houses are all located in areas targeted by the city for re-investment activities.
For each house it acquires, FutureHeights develops a comprehensive scope of work and design standards. The CDC then oversees the work, ensuring it meets those standards. The renovated houses are then sold to owner-occupants.
"We may act as developer for one house per year; no more than that," Kirman noted. "It's another tool in our toolbox, expanding the ways in which we can rehab houses to improve the community and accomplish our goals. We'll continue to sell homes to developers/rehabbers, so long as they agree to our standards and work scope."
The average pre-rehab value of the 22 homes was approximately $8,000 each. Following the rehabilitation work, the average sale price was $177,000.
The first 22 houses rehabilitated through the FutureHomes program are located in Cleveland Heights' “mid-city” target area, near the high school; in the Noble-Monticello-Caledonia target area; and in the Desota-Altamont target area.
“FutureHeights remains committed and eager to continue real estate work within our target areas, and we are especially motivated to help correct the problems caused by residential vacancies, out-of-town bulk buyers, mortgage and tax foreclosures, and nuisance properties,” said Kirman.
FutureHeights acquires most of the homes it rehabs from the city of Cleveland Heights' land bank, with some purchased from the county's land bank.
"We pay a nominal fee," said Kirman, "[with the] understanding that we are motivated to complete quality renovations and secure a new owner-occupant for the community’s sake, rather than just earn a profit, like many house flippers tend to do. This is a partnership with our local government."
Robert Brown is a city planner with 47 years of experience, including nine as Cleveland's City Planning Director. A Cleveland Heights resident for more than 40 years, he serves on the board of FutureHeights.